Immune system important in fight against stomach cancer

Jun 28, 2010

Researchers have identified cells in the immune system that react to the stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori, one of the risk factors for the development of stomach cancer. This discovery could lead to faster diagnosis and treatment as well as a better prognosis for patients with stomach cancer, reveals a thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

is one of the most common bacterial infections in the world, and leads to chronic inflammation of the stomach. While carriers are generally symptom-free, the bacterium can cause stomach ulcers and, sometimes, the development of stomach cancer. As the symptoms of stomach cancer are varied, it is often discovered at a late stage and has a very poor prognosis.

"We don't know how the caused by Helicobacter pylori affects the development of stomach cancer," says Asa Lindgren, a researcher from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "So it was interesting to study how the immune system behaves towards Helicobacter pylori in the stomach."

The team looked at how NK cells (natural killer cells - a type of immune cell) reacted to Helicobacter pylori. These cells are an important part of the as they can both recognise and kill cells that are infected by viruses and bacteria as well as .

"We found that a special type of NK cells was active against the stomach ulcer bacterium," says Ĺsa Lindgren. "These NK cells produced cytokines, which are the immune system's signal substances and act as a defence against the intruder."

The researchers' results suggest that NK cells can play an important role in the immune defence against Helicobacter pylori. Previous research has also shown that a high proportion of NK cells in tumour tissue has contributed to a better prognosis and longer survival for patients with stomach cancer, as these cells help to eliminate the tumour cells.

The researchers therefore believe that activation of the NK cells can play a key role in stopping tumours from developing, and that reduced NK-cell activity can increase the risk of cancer developing. Ĺsa Lindgren hopes that these findings can be used to develop new ways of diagnosing and treating stomach cancer.

"This would make it possible to diagnose at an early stage, which, in turn, could mean a better prognosis for the patients."

Explore further: Public need better information about screening, say MPs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peptic ulcer bacterium alters the body's defense system

Jun 29, 2009

Helicobacter pylori survives in the body by manipulating important immune system cells. This is shown in a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The discovery may lead to new treatm ...

Going from ulcers to cancer

Aug 22, 2008

Researchers have uncovered a big clue as to why some of the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers pose a greater risk for serious problems like stomach cancer than others; it turns out these bacteria can exploit the surrounding ...

Gastric ulcer bacteria turn immune defense inwards

Jan 25, 2010

Despite a strong response from our immune defence, the body is unable to rid itself of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. One reason for this is that this bacterium encourages elements of the immune response to remain in tis ...

Important defense against stomach ulcer bacterium identified

Oct 13, 2009

A special protein in the lining of the stomach has been shown to be an important part of the body's defense against the stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori in a new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the Univer ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.